And resulted in a delay in Sexist Beatdown! This week: a groundbreaking new study finds that, when you ask a bunch of boring straight people which sex acts are "normal," you come up with some pretty boring, heterosexist ideas about sex. Oh, and also: dudes are judged more harshly than ladies for getting all freaky in the sack, apparently? Must be because they're not doing it to keep their menfolks satisfied! Pervs.
... Or are they? Amanda Hess of The Sexist and I debate!
Illustration: Justin Timberlake would like to bring sexy back, but you are making it hard with all your harsh societal constraints. DON'T JUDGE JUSTIN.
SADY: hello! i am just perusing the great "who is a sex freak" study now. confession: i'm kind of bad at just reading raw statistics. did you read through it?
AMANDA: i did read through it. i skipped most of the intro.
SADY: as did i
AMANDA: but i basically get the findings
SADY: so, the operating theory behind this study is that men are judged more harshly than ladies for getting all freaky in the sack. here is an interesting fact: MOST OF THE PEOPLE WHO RESPONDED TO THE SURVEY WERE LADIES. so seriously, are we surprised that girls are maybe more understanding of girls getting off in weird ways?
AMANDA: that's a good point. But i think commentators---and the original news story---are overestimating the difference between perceptions of men and women here. and i think it's important to note what respondents were asked. they were asked whether something was "normal" or "abnormal,” not whether something was acceptable or unacceptable. so when i see a question like this one:
A man (woman) in a wheelchair performing oral sex on someone who is able-bodied
do I think that's normal? I've never done this, or heard a story about this happening, or seen it in porn. i think it's very abnormal. That just doesn't fucking happen all that often. That doesn't mean that it's wrong, it's just not really an average thing
SADY: yeah, it's unusual, but probably not to folks who are romantically involved with someone who's disabled. my favorite question is "a normal weight person having sex with a person who weighs 322 pounds." surprisingly, 32% of folks surveyed thought it was "abnormal" for a "normal weight" dude to have sex with a 322-pound lady, but only 25% thought it was "abnormal" for women to have sex with a 322-pound man! That's not freaky sex time, that's the plot of "King of Queens."
AMANDA: i know. and how specific the weight is! but that's exactly where i was going to go with this---a lot of our idea (or 104 Canadian college students' idea) of what is normal comes from what we see regularly on television or in porn. you're more likely to see a 3-way with two women and a man than two men and a woman---that's "more normal.” you're more likely to see a girl get peed on than the other way around---that's "more normal.” also, i can see why some men would want to say, you know, for example, it's totally normal for a woman to want to have anal sex, because i want to have anal sex with my girlfriend.
SADY: hah, right, and a lot of that (porn) IS based on a model of sex and gender wherein men are totally active and in control and hypersexual and women are only responsive and there to gratify the dudes. that's just the way these things go.
AMANDA: right, exactly. i think the idea that this study has any implications on the sexual double standard is misleading. a man can say he thinks it's normal for a girl to want to have a threesome, and a man may want to have a threesome with two girls, but does he want to date a girl who he knows has had a threesome? that's an entirely different survey.
SADY: that's the survey of my life, friend.
SADY: i do think it's interesting, though, even though we admit that we're looking at this totally overtly normative version of sex, that there are two questions with HUGE disparities: one, it's considered way abnormal for dudes not to get turned on by nekkid ladies, and two, it's considered way abnormal for dudes to get turned on by wearing lady clothes. neither of those are AS abnormal for girls.
AMANDA: you're right about that. i did read somewhere that the vast majority of respondents were heterosexual, with only one gay male reporting
SADY: yeah, precisely... and all of the questions about partner sex were phrased in an overtly hetero way, the only question where you don't know the gender of the partner are the ones where somebody's getting peed on.
AMANDA: also, while everyone thought it was abnormal for men to get turned on by children playing, only 91.7 percent of respondents thought the same of women
AMANDA: i have no explanation for that one
SADY: yeah, well, it's also more "abnormal" for dudes to have rape fantasies than ladies.
AMANDA: i think this study would be more interesting if it were accompanied by one that surveyed people about their actual turn-ons. how many dudes get turned on by peeing vs. how many women think that is normal? now we'll see who's normal!
SADY: that would be exciting! there could be a whole undercurrent of pee-love in the American populace, and we wouldn't know about it. but who's going to answer those questions honestly? this all reminds me of the bonobo porn study from a while back.
AMANDA: i know, maybe we're not ready to rehash that just yet. it would be interesting to know, at least, how attitudes about what's "normal" affect your feelings for a person. "would you be more/less likely to date a man who liked to be peed on?" i'll answer that: i would date him, but not necessarily pee on him.
SADY: i would feel bad about dating that dude. i would be unable to pee on him and i would know that he was missing out. i think he should meet a nice girl who drinks a lot of beer and coffee, that's my answer.
AMANDA: no very abnormal feelings toward you though, man. also, what university can only find one gay person out of a hundred?
SADY: exactly. i mean, these are just questions about Generic Dude and Generic Lady and their many (hetero)sexy adventures. so are we surprised that we're coming up with this super-generic picture here?
AMANDA: you're right, there's no personal investment here at all. i bet most of them don't give a shit what a theoretical person does on or off a wheelchair
SADY: exactly. there's no history there at all. like, is the wheelchair dude or lady in question having sex with his/her spouse? girlfriend? MAILMAN? we don't know!
AMANDA: and do they get off on the disability, or do they just happen to be with a disabled person? inquiring bloggers want to know. in short, this study was not nearly sexy enough
SADY: too true. one thing i have learned from this study is that the 68 ladies who took it (as opposed to the 36 men) are REALLY not into (a) dudes not getting turned on by their nekkid parts, and (b) dudes masturbating while in a relationship. are we that insecure that dudes can't occasionally NOT have boners, or get boners on their own sometimes? there are plenty of boners to go around! in conclusion, boners.
SADY: embrace your boners, people of the world! let no-one tell you they are abnormal!